By Dianne Weaver

Calhoun Schools and 37 other West Virginia county school systems are facing the annual RIF (reduction in force) ritual.

Calhoun's reduction will be voted on Monday evening by the Board of Education, according to Superintendent Ron Blankenship.

"It is one of the most difficult things we do, to tell people they no longer have a job," he said.

Blankenship reportedly is asking for the elimination of about seven professionals/teachers, two secretaries and a bus driver.

The list will likely include the transfer of 21 others.

The cuts will include two social studies teachers in addition to half-time instructors for family and consumer science and a special education teacher, in addition to an assistant principal/alternative learning center instructor.

Also on the list is the elimination of three elementary school teaching positions, two from Pleasant Hill and one from Arnoldsburg.

The service staff cuts include the Middle School secretary, Blankenship's secretary and a bus driver.

The RIF's go into effect the next school year.

Calhoun suffered the second highest percentage of student decline in the state at 5.2% (66 students), with Gilmer County having the largest loss of students.

Fewer students means less money to run the system.

Based on a $6,000 allocation per student, Calhoun would be losing about $400,000 from the state.

"Reduction in force" joins downsizing, right-sizing, lay-offs and other mild-mannered words created in recent years. In school systems, however, many of those who are "rifted" are re-assigned to other openings, transferred or brought back when things change.

Statewide, school enrollment has dropped slightly over 1,000 students this year.

Rural counties which have few job opportunities for employment suffer the largest decreases.

West Virginia has lost 82,481 students (22.7 percent) since the 1984-85 school year.

Calhoun, a few years ago, lost over 100 students in one year, an all-time high.

The decline in student numbers means the further closure of community schools.